An electronic article surveillance system is a type of counter-theft protection measure used in retail settings that includes a small sensor or tag on merchandise which alerts the store if a customer carries it off of the premises. These systems also include a deactivation or removal device, which cashiers use after a customer purchases the product to allow safe removal from the store.
Most electronic article surveillance systems include a special tag that attaches to the store's products, such as a radio frequency sticker on books or an electronic receiver pinned to clothing. The stores also feature special sensors at the entrances and exits that are tied to an alarm system, which may include auditory sirens, lights or a silent feature that alerts clerks or security guards. When one of the tags passes through these sensors, it triggers the alarm and allows a representative to retrieve the merchandise. It is also common for stores to place these sensors at restroom entrances as well.
When a customer purchases the merchandise, a sales associate removes or deactivates the tag so that it does not set off the alarm. Many retail stores use electronic article surveillance systems to reduce shoplifting because the systems do not require direct or consistent monitoring from employees. Instead, the system is reactionary, meaning it alerts the store during a theft attempt and thus reduces the cost and time of loss prevention.